Monday, September 20, 2010

Speak Loudly: When Book Bannings Hit Home

So have you heard the news about #SpeakLoudly? A friend of mine is a teacher at Republic High School and she's the one that told me about this banning a week ago. Now it's blown up and it's all over the place. This is happening in the area where I live. Republic is a fifteen minute drive from my house and they are part of the county that my library system serves. I am embarrassed for my community and I'm taking a stand.

Missouri State University Professor Wesley Scroggins is throwing a fit over various subjects and books being taught in the Republic Missouri school system. He has a 29-page document he presented to the Republic School Board and wrote an opinion piece in the local newspaper. You can bet I'm fired up!! This all comes about a week after a banning of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian in a town about two hours away from Republic. (As a side note, I love this opinion piece on the Stockton banning from one Stockton's residents)

So I know I'm not adding many new thoughts to this discussion, but I wanted to add another post to the blogosphere and take a stand.

-Banning books is wrong. If you don't want your children to read it, fine don't read it. I have no problem with that. But what I do have a problem with is when you tell an entire student body not to read a book. And I have an even bigger problem with the fact that Mr. Scroggins, while living in Republic, doesn't even have his own children attend the public school but instead homeschools them. So they're not even reading this book in school!

-If you find a rape scene to be "soft porn" then I think there is something very sick and wrong with you, Mr. Scroggins.

-Obviously, Mr. Scroggins, you read these books looking for the dirty flilthy bad parts. If you would have read them without a highlighter you might have noticed that Speak is about standing up for yourself. A girl is raped and she feels like she can't tell anyone about it-I know many teenage girls who feel that way about various things. So instead of having teens read a book that shows that there is help and they can take a stand, we'll let them suffer in silence? If you had read Twenty Boy Summer,you would know that's a novel about moving on after the death of a loved one and handling grief. Let's never show students that making rash decisions based in grief over your brother's death are bad. Apparently, teaching students that getting drunk and make rash decisions can turn out bad (as Frankie does) is not something we want to teach students. I guess we'd rather them learn that one on their own.

-I also have a problem with the fact that Mr. Scroggins picked out Twenty Boy Summer to be included in his banned book complaint because it was a "spotlighted read" on the Republic High School Library website. This was just a random find and something additional to add to his complaint. There is no real complaint here. If you don't want to read it, don't read it. This book is not required reading and if you're going to start attacking random YA books, well, you're going to have to shut down the entire library than because you never know what sort of scandal may enter a teens mind just by stepping foot in the library and pulling a book of the shelf.

-And the biggest thing I'm upset with is the fact that Mr. Scroggins calls out the school board saying these things should not be in the school because board members are Christians. He is using his own Christian based agenda and his 29-page statement to the school board is furthering that agenda. This is one of the reasons why I sometimes have problems telling people that I'm a Christian-I don't want to be associated with these wackos. Because as a Christian, I think faith and relationship with God is what is important and not banning books. Freedom of speech allows you to talk about your religion and your ideas, but guess what? It also gives writers the freedom to write what they want to write and students the freedom read what they want to read. Again, if you don't want your children to read these books, fine, that's your right and I will respect that. But don't tell everyone else they can't read them-because not everyone agrees with you, even fellow Christians.

-You know what I love though? Now an entire community is going to read these books. As this grows, you can bet the library hold lists are growing (and we're ordering more copies!) People will be buying these books at the local bookstores. I'm happy that the comments on the News-Leader article support the freedom to read and are anti-censorship. It makes me happy that my community is coming together and taking a stand and reading these books.
So Speak Loudly and read these books. Write a comment on the News-Leader article. Write a letter to the school board. Blog about it, Twitter about it, and share your support for this authors and stake a stand against banned books.


  1. Pickin' up my copies of both those books asap thanks to this guy. Never heard of them until yesterday when the Blog universe exploded!
    Linking this post if that's okay. I love what you said and how you said it!

  2. Great post! I'm from the area as well, and I feel the same way. The entire situation disgusts me.

  3. Awesome post, Sara! When I saw this on twitter yesterday and realized that he was from my 'neck of the woods' it ticked me off even more. I shouldn't be surprised he tried throwing out the part about being a Christian. I'm with you, sometimes it's hard for me to say I am one because of people like Scroggins. It's sad that he tries to use this to justify his actions. I made my own poster yesterday and even offered up 2 copies of Speak to give away. This book should not be silenced nor should Twenty Boy Summer or Slaughterhouse Five.

    PS - I've been MIA for most of the summer and this is the first time I've been by your blog in ages. The layout is cute!

  4. C.E.-Yes, link away! I don't even think I said things as well as other have, so I'm glad you want to share this post!:) And yes, do read them-great books!!

    Another Book Junkie-Yay for area bloggers!! My friend (who is a teacher at Republic) and I spent a good hour venting over it last night.

    Amber-Thanks! I'm hoping I can do a giveaway too. This is so frustrating and I hate that it makes me look bad-one as a resident of MO and two as a Christian myself.

  5. I love what you said about Dr. Scroggins picking Twenty Boy Summer to crusade against just because it was a recommended read. At the rate he's banning books, they may just have to close the library all together. Then, kids will have more time to go out and get into trouble, rather than just read about it.

    I'm linking this on my blog and twitter. Feel free to come check out my thoughts on the subject.

  6. Great job, Sarah. I'm so glad to see that people in our community our speaking out! I brought the article to class today and passed it around to my classmates and professors. All of them were just as outraged as we were!

    P.S. Finally got that library card! Lol! The Library Station is right next to my apartment!

  7. Great post Sarah! You said it way better than I did! We are so lucky to have you sticking up for books and teens.

    Another thing I noticed- Republic schools are not private, Christian-based schools. They are public. So the fact that the people on the school board are Christian shouldn't even factor into their decisions on anything to do with the school.

    I sent my letter today to the Superintendent- I bet he's getting a lot of those.

  8. Excellent post, Sarah! I was so upset that I also posted too and spoke loudly on my blog:

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  10. Thank you for being the best at your job and always being an advocate for teens and YA books. I am proud to be Mr. GreenBeanSexyMan.

  11. Ok. I am trying to word this the correct way and hope it comes across as I intended. I do not believe these books should be removed from shelves in schools/libraries, but I'm bothered a bit by the attitude of some people I've talked to. Basically my belief is that if a book has a very mature subject matter or content (I was mainly discussing one of the other books mentioned, Slaughterhouse 5, which I know with certainty I would not have been able to handle as a teenager, and I'm pretty sure at age 25 I still couldn't read it), if a student feels uncomfortable with the book, they should not be forced to read it. Just like if they want to read it, they should be able to. I don't understand why people who think a book should be available in the school, but not required reading because it has really mature content, are lumped into a category with those who want to ban/completely remove the books. How is forcing an immature student to read a really violent book better than removing the book from all students? Both are bad. I feel like teens who were like I was (I would have done ANYTHING to avoid a book with extreme graphic violence and I STILL do) get sort of forgotten here. It should work both ways - a choice for the student who feels ready for a challenging, mature book, with another option for the student who genuinely feels unable to handle extreme graphic violence.

    Did what I say make sense? I'm just upset because every news article I comment on I get lumped in with book banners despite the fact I say very clearly I want the books to remain available in the school - but I want the student who says "No, I'm not ready for this book" to have the option - because that's just as important as having the option for the student who DOES want to read the book!

  12. Rebecca I know exactly what you mean. Most schools have to offer an alternative if someone has an objection to reading a certain book. What Mr. Scroggins was asking for was a removal of the book, not an option to do a different book. I completely agree with what you said.

  13. Thank you! Someone who understands! I was mostly posting in response to people who thought Slaughterhouse 5 should be kept as required reading because it was important to make every kid read that level of violence to learn about war and I was like "Hey, wait! You shouldn't seperate the freedom to read a book with the freedom to decide NOT to read a book!" That was seriously the worst arguement about not banning a book that I've ever read.... basically "don't ban it so kids can be forced to read it." Geez... anyway glad someone gets what I was saying!! I think not banning books is important so it saddens me when people use really awful arguments.

  14. Great post! I think it is important that any one who can speaks loud about this. I don't even live in the USA but I blogged about this yesterday, it makes me so sad and what kind of person in their right mind compares rape to soft porn?

    Laurie's poem was just fantastic, it made me cry.

    I bought this book becase of this and I bet a lot of other readers did as well.

  15. Fantastic post! And again, Rebecca, I completely understand what you are saying as well. If a book is considered part of the curriculum and may seem inappropriate for your child (or you), you should definitely have an alternative available.

    As for this fella, he brings his faith into it. I am a Christian, but I am also a librarian (well, hope to be soon). One of the greatest things about the library is the purpose to have a diverse collection. Your beliefs shouldn't affect your book selection. It's about tolerance.

    The diversity in the library is one of the main reasons I want to be a librarian. There's something for everyone. What one person may love, another may disagree with. A book that may have provided a young woman with strength may have provided a man with disdain for "soft porn". But, that's the duty of the library-- to provide a book for everyone. And each individual has the opportunity to select a book for themselves as an INDIVIDUAL! To tell others they may not have that same opportunity because a book is now banned is asinine and a complete disregard for the first amendment.

    ok... I'm off my soapbox now.

  16. Rebecca- I agree too! I think most people do- forcing someone to read something is just as bad as banning it.

    I remember in high school we had a reading list for our English classes- it was a list of like 40 books, and we had to choose 10 for the year or whatever. I never read Slaughterhouse Five in School, but I am pretty sure it was on the list.

    Anyway, I just want them to be an option, like you. I know some teachers do have required reading but I hope there can be some flexibility in that as well.

  17. Rebecca-Yes this school system does have options in place and students can opt out of reading any book in class. I'm all for lit circles-give students a list of books that are all around the same theme/time period/etc and have them choose what they want from that list. I would love it if lit circles were used and teachers put contemporary books on the list as well as classics.

  18. you go girl! banning books is the dumbest thing even because like you said at the end of this post it really does nothing.

  19. Thanks for your post. I will be looking to get copies of the three books you mentioned and will gladly blog about them and promote them as I can. I am fully against book banning.

  20. lit circles sound like a great idea - I wish my school had something like that! I think I would have been more interested in certain topics we studied if I could have chosen a book in a different writing style for some of them


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